Scriptures

Who Is The Anti-Christ And The Man Of Sin?

Introduction

Before delving into the subject of the man of sin in 1 Thessalonians 2, I think it’s fair to say that many people are very confused about the subject of ‘the antichrist’, this is because they refuse to use the best commentary on the Bible there is, and that’s the Bible itself.

I’m sure if people let the Bible speak for itself, they would have no trouble in understanding John’s meaning of the term antichrist.

It is very interesting that John is the only writer in the New Testament who uses the term ‘antichrist’, in fact he uses the term five times. He uses it twice in 1 John 2:18, he uses the term again in 1 John 2:22, he uses it again in 1 John 4:2-3 and finally he uses again in 2 John 7.

Now we’re living in a society where many people believe that the term ‘antichrist’ is used to refer to an individual. In other words, they believe ‘the antichrist’, singular, will appear in the end times. For example, some believe that an actual person will arise in the religious-political arena and lead many people astray just before Christ comes again.

This view is held by pre-millenialist and many amillenialists but to understand what John means we need to ask ourselves one simple question, who are the antichrists? How do we spot the spirit of the antichrist?

Well unlike popular public belief, the answer isn’t a mystery but quite simple. It’s simple because John tells us the answer quite simply.

‘THEY went out from us, but THEY did not really belong to us. For if THEY had belonged to us, THEY would have remained with us; but THEIR going showed that none of THEM belonged to us.’ 1 John 2:19

In John’s day, not some time in the future, but in John’s day, ‘the antichrists’ not ‘one antichrist’ but ‘many antichrists’ were individuals who had associated themselves with the apostles and other Christians. But what these people did was that they had gone out on their own and were no longer in fellowship with the apostles.

In other words, these people weren’t approved by the apostles. Why? Quite simply because they didn’t respect the apostle’s authority. Well you might ask well, where does John say that?

‘But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.’ 1 John 4:3-6

Now if we want to relate that today, we can, because many ‘antichrists’ behave the same way. Many people start out acting like they respect apostolic authority, and seek to be with Christians but eventually their true nature comes out and they will not want to be with those who respect apostolic authority very long, John 13:20.

Those who reject the apostles reject Christ himself and so in effect they have the spirit of the antichrist.

John tells us another characteristic about the antichrist.

‘Who is the liar? It is THE MAN WHO DENIES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.’ 1 John 2:22-23

Again, in John’s day these people denied that Jesus is the Christ. Now remember in John’s day there was a big problem with Gnosticism. A Gnostic is a person who says, ‘A divine God couldn’t possibly come in the flesh because the flesh is too sinful.’

Many people in John’s day and even today allege that Jesus and Christ are two different persons. They believed that Christ merely appeared to have flesh, but in reality, didn’t. Some believe that the Christ descended upon Jesus at His baptism and departed at the time of His suffering. It is that denial that Jesus Christ came in the flesh that John identifies as the spirit of the antichrist, 1 John 4:3.

Another way to spot the spirit of the antichrist is that they deny the Father and the Son.

‘Such a man is the antichrist–HE DENIES THE FATHER AND THE SON. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.’ 1 John 2:22-23

By denying that Jesus is the Christ came from the Father, they were denying the Son, John 1:1-2 / John 1:14. In other words because of their denial, they were refusing to believe that Jesus came from the Father and by denying the Son they were also denying the Father, John 13:20.

Now if we want to spot the spirit of the antichrist today, it would be quite simple, anyone who denies that Jesus was the Messiah. Anyone who denies the nature of Jesus, that He was fully God and fully man. Anyone who denies apostolic authority, i.e. the Bible and especially it’s teaching about the nature of Jesus Christ, has the spirit of the antichrist.

Is the antichrist a character soon to be revealed on the stage of world events?

Well let’s look at some of the views of Dispensationalists, which is currently the most popular form of premillennialism, because they have much to say about ‘the Antichrist.’ According to these guys, they would have us believe that the antichrist is a man, now living, who will soon rise to the position of a world-wide dictator. This view finds absolutely no support in the Bible.

Over the years in reference to the ‘spirit of the antichrist,’ countless people and groups have attempted to identify the antichrist. Simply type in the word ‘antichrist’ on the internet, and you will be immersed with suggested personalities such as the Roman Emperor Nero, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and the Pope, which are but a few of the candidates put forth.

In most cases, ‘the antichrist’ is supposed to be connected with the end of the world, the number 666, and various other ‘signs of the times.’

Now we need to keep going over this because we really do need to be aware of where these people are coming from.

‘Dear children, THIS IS THE LAST HOUR; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now MANY ANTICHRISTS have come. This is how we know IT IS THE LAST HOUR.’ 1 John 2:18

‘Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son.’ 1 John 2:22

John specifically says that ‘many antichrists had already come into the world’. If his readers were looking for a single, solitary figure distinguished as the sole antichrist, John took that notion away by saying to them that ‘many antichrists had come’.

Remember John is referring to those of the Gnostic persuasion. If John was talking about a mysterious antichrist who is some sinister personage who is to appear in the late 21st century why would he say, ‘Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, EVEN NOW MANY ANTICHRISTS HAVE COME.’ 1 John 2:18

Why would he say, ‘But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and EVEN NOW IS ALREADY IN THE WORLD.’ 1 John 4:3

John says the spirit of the antichrist is already here, in John’s day. Any good Biblical student will see quite clearly, when John makes references to ‘antichrist’ he’s using that term to suggest a spirit of unbelief that can be manifested in a variety of ways, both in the past and present.

John defined an antichrist as any person or group who denies the Father and the Son. Any person or group, which does not recognise that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come in the flesh, is a person or a group that has been seized by the spirit of antichrist.

Summary

Are all people who deny the Sonship and incarnation of Jesus to be regarded as antichrists, or is the term reserved for New Testament Gnosticism and Docetism?

Think about the background to the discussion of this intriguing subject. In dealing with the question I would like, first, to make an observation about the opening statement in 1 John 2:18 which refers to ‘antichrists’ and ‘the antichrist’ and then I would like for us to consider three questions.

1. Are Satan and the lawless man of 2 Thessalonians 2 one and the same?

2. Are the events described in 2 Thessalonians 2 in the future and do some Christians face a terrible persecution?

3. Are all people who deny the Sonship and incarnation of Jesus to be regarded as antichrists, or is the term reserved for New Testament Gnosticism and Docetism?

About John’s Opening Statement

‘Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that THE antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.’ 1 John 2:18

It is important that we should notice that nowhere does John use the term ‘the Antichrist’. In fact, in the New Testament Scriptures the word ‘antichristos’ is unique to John’s first and second letters, and the definite article, that is the word ‘the’ isn’t found in the Greek text.

‘You have heard that antichrist comes’, the word simply means ‘against Christ’, and it is used in an adjectival sense. In other words, this isn’t person or an individual, and it isn’t used as a title, but defines an attitude or a disposition which rejects Christ. This becomes evident if we summarise what John wrote.

John in his first letter 1 John 2:18, introduces the subject.

1. ‘You have heard’. In these words he implies that he is reminding them of something about which they had already
been forewarned.

2. ‘That antichrist is coming’. Notice that he uses the future tense.

3. ‘Even now there are many antichrists.’ He reveals that this opposition to Christ already exists. Paul endorses this in 2 Thessalonians 2:7.

4. John then defined the word ‘antichrist’ in terms which cannot be misunderstood. ‘He, ‘anyone’, is antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son’.

This definition is expanded at verse 7 of his second letter, where he declared that ‘many deceivers have gone out into the world’, that is, people ‘who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: any such person is a deceiver and antichrist’.

So, according to the literal definition of the word, ‘antichristos’ means contra, or against Christ. It doesn’t describe one who claims to be the Christ or who assumes the authority of the Christ but identifies one who denies the very identity of Christ and His authority. The Lord himself said, ‘He who is not with me is against me’. Matthew 12:30

In fact, John didn’t use the word ‘pseudchristos’ in referring to those whom he described as ‘antichrist’. He wasn’t writing about ‘false Christ’s nor was he accusing these people of claiming to be Christ. According to Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22, ‘pseudochristos’ was the term used by the Lord Himself in answering His disciples’ questions about the destruction of the temple.

How, then, has the concept of ‘the antichrist’ arisen?

Why has this attitude of opposition to Christ become ‘personified’? To find the answer to this question it is necessary to go back to the Old Testament Scriptures. After the Babylonian Captivity, there grew up among the Jews a belief which declared that, at some time in the future, someone or some power, would come to wage war against the people of God.

They believed that this enemy of the God’s people would appear before the coming of the Messiah and would be defeated by ‘the Coming One’ i.e., the Messiah. There are several passages, notably in the Book of Daniel, which relate to the future of Kingdom of Judah after the Captivity and which contain references to this coming conflict and the one who would instigate it. Daniel 7:19 ff / Daniel 8:20-24 / Daniel 11:36 ff.

It’s surely not difficult, then, to appreciate that, the early Christians, and the Jewish Christians in particular who were certainly familiar with the Old Covenant scriptures and who recognised themselves as the true spiritual people of God, would find it easy to relate to this idea.

The Man Of Sin

When Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, he knew that his readers were concerned about the Lord’s return, believing that it was imminent. But, in 2 Thessalonians 2, he points out that the return of the Christ will be preceded by a falling-away from the faith, and by the revelation ‘apokalupsis’ of ‘the Man of Sin’, whom he further describes as ‘the son of perdition’.

However, when we try to identify this ‘man of sin’, we run into difficulties! Are we to look for an evil person or an evil system or organisation? We may immediately rule out the notion that a system or organisation is indicated, because Paul said that ‘the son of perdition’ would be identified by his conduct.

Notice, first that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 requires the recognition of a human being who is described as ‘that man of sin’. Notice, also, that personal pronouns are used; ‘he’, ‘himself’, and ‘his’, because they indicate an individual.

Notice that the manner in which he behaves is that of a human despot ‘He exalts himself’. According to the A.V. ‘He, as God, sits in the Temple of God showing himself that he is God’, but in fact, the words ‘as God’ aren’t in the Greek text. The expression used is ‘estan theos’ which means ‘as a god’. The original Greek is much more vivid in bringing out the terrible arrogance with which he presents himself. He assumes the attitude and posture of a god.

In fact, our English translation does not bring out the appalling blasphemous attitude of this Man of Sin. ‘He will oppose’, the word means exalt, ‘elevate’ himself above every so-called ‘god’ or object of worship. ‘He will seat himself in the shrine of God’.

The word ‘naon’ which is translated ‘Temple’ doesn’t describe the whole temple complex. It describes the ‘holy place’ or; ‘the holy of holies’. The Sanctuary. And the word ‘kathisai’ means ‘sitting’, ‘taking his seat’, suggesting the arrogant manner with which he behaves.

We should also notice that this evil being comes ‘into’ the temple, not ‘in’ the Temple. It conveys the thought of ‘intrusion’ and emphasises the intense profanity of his conduct. Not only does he not enter the temple but forcing his way into the very heart of the temple, into its most holy places. He will claim to be God.

Although not himself Satan, he will be the tool of Satan, since his coming would be ‘by the activity of Satan’.

I have already said that believers of the New Testament period would be familiar with the events of the Inter-Testamental Period, when the Jews were opposed by Antiochus 4th of Syria, who gave himself the title ‘Antiochus Epiphanes’, ‘Antiochus the Brightness’.

As you will see from the Daniel references already given, Paul’s description of the ‘Man of Sin’ follow very closely the description given of the Syrian tyrant.

I suggest, therefore that these identification marks certainly appear to point to an evil individual rather than to an organisation; although, some commentators have suggested a different explanation.

When Paul wrote these things, it is understandable that, in the light of the persecution being suffered by the church, these early Christians thought that this was a reference to the power of the Roman Empire, and, even more particularly, to one or other of several Emperors personally responsible for instigating religious persecution.

It was widely known, for instance, that the Emperor Caligula had planned to erect an image of himself in the Temple in Jerusalem, believing himself to be a god, so the connection was not difficult to make. But, since, Caligula was assassinated in 41 A.D., and Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians ten years later, Caligula, evil man though he undoubtedly was, could not possibly be the person to whom the passage refers. Paul clearly predicts that this person would make his appearance at some time in the future.

Closer to our own time, the Protestant Reformers were convinced that the occupant of the Vatican throne is the one concerning whom Paul spoke, and no doubt there are still some folk who hold this view. Let me, then, summarise my answer to the questions.

1. Satan and the ‘man of sin’ are not the same person.

Satan is nowhere in the Scriptures described in human terms. He is never called a ‘man’. The Man of Sin is his tool.

2. Since the events described by Paul in 2 Thessalonians must precede the Lord’s return.

It is reasonable to believe that there will, indeed, be a future time of persecution, and John is warning his readers that, at some time in the future, there would be an intensification of the rejection of, and opposition to, Christ, such as already existed in his own days.

Is not this the thought behind the rhetorical question posed by the Lord Himself?

‘When the Son of Man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?’ Luke 18:8

3. Although it is true that the ‘Docetics’, ‘dokeo’ means to seem, denied that the Lord’s body was human, and only ‘seemed’ to be real.

The ‘Gnostics’ claimed that Jesus was only ‘a messenger of the supreme God’, sent to bring ‘gnosis’, knowledge, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that anyone who denies the Father and the Son is ‘antichrist’. 1 John 2:22, no matter the reason for the denial.

After nearly 2000 years the situation hasn’t changed. By means of the preaching of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit continues to bear testimony to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God, and anyone who hears this testimony, understands it and refuses to believe it, is antichrist and stands under condemnation.

This is one reason we so desperately need to keep on preaching the Gospel, Matthew 28:18-20.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

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